Header image: an infrared camera image of a Leopard Cat patrolling Haituoshan against the backdrop of the downhill ski slope for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Image courtesy of Peking University/China Felid Conservation Alliance (CFCA).
There are few major capital cities in the world that can boast a population of wild cats. Perhaps surprisingly to many, Beijing is one. This page is dedicated to Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis, 豹猫, Bàomāo) in Beijing. It includes key facts, a timeline of key events and updates relating to ongoing research led by Professor Luo Shu-Jin of Peking University. All information here is presented in good faith. If you spot any errors or inaccuracies, or would like to contribute images to the gallery, please contact Birding Beijing using the contact form at the end of this page. Thank you.
Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis, 豹猫, Bàomāo) is a small wild cat widely distributed across South, East and South East Asia. Subspecies differ widely in fur colour, tail length, skull shape and size of carnassials. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Leopard Cat was the first cat species domesticated in Neolithic China about 5,000 years ago in Shaanxi and Henan Provinces.
In Beijing, the subspecies of Leopard Cat is P. b. bengalensis. It is widespread in the outer parts of Beijing Municipality (outside the 6th ring road) but rarely seen due to its nocturnal habits. The first photograph of a wild Leopard Cat in Beijing was as recent as 13 September 2010 when Brian Jones photographed one at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Today, Professor Luo Shu-Jin from Peking University is leading a team to find out more about Leopard Cats in Beijing.
About the Wild Leopard Cats in Beijing Project
Urban wildlife, or free ranging animals that can live in urban or suburban environments, has intrigued ecologists and the general public for decades. Contrary to popular belief, some wildlife may possess a surprising resilience to survive a human-dominated landscape. With spotted fur and a body size slightly larger than a house cat, the leopard cat is a widespread but elusive felid in Asia. Around Beijing, one of the world’s largest cities with a human population of over 21 million, the status of this species in the wild remains poorly known. Since 2018, a collaboration between Dr. Luo Shu-Jin’s research team at the School of Life Sciences at Peking University and the China Felid Conservation Alliance (CFCA) resulted in the “Wild Leopard Cats in Beijing” project. The team set up infrared cameras along a 16-kilometre trail in the Haituo mountain area 90 kilometres northwest of central Beijing and collected suspected leopard cat scats on a regular basis for molecular ecology and population genetic analyses. The project aims to examine the local wildlife diversity, to investigate the population status of leopard cats, and to explore the pattern of anthropogenic disturbance and the mode of possible human-wildlife coexistence in Greater Beijing. As of September 2021, the study has uncovered the previously underestimated species richness of wildlife hidden in the mountains of Beijing, providing hope for a delicate balance between wilderness and human settlements in and around metropolitan Beijing.
Further updates from the Wild Leopard Cats in Beijing project will appear here.
23 July 2021
A short letter by Luo Shujin about Leopard Cat in Beijing is published in Science Magazine.
One of the most exciting co-discoveries of the Wild Leopard Cats in Beijing project has been the capture of an image of Mountain Weasel (Mustela altaica). The Mountain Weasel is a small mustelid native to the mountains of East and Central Asia. In China it can be found on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and in some high-altitude regions of northern and southwestern China.
An adult mountain weasel was photographed by a camera trap in September 2019 in the Haituo mountain area of Beijing. The finding was published in Acta Theriologica Sinica (see link to the paper below, in Chinese). The record follows two images of Mountain Weasel taken at Lingshan in Mentougou District and, together, they add a new species of mammal to Beijing’s avifauna and highlights the likely underestimated fauna diversity even on the outskirts of one of the world’s largest cities.
Han S, Lu D, Meng H, Leong CF, Liu Y, Song D, Li S, Luo SJ* (2021). A new record of mammal from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan region of North China—Mustela altaica. Acta Theriologica Sinica 41(3): 361-364. [in Chinese]
Article link: http://www.mammal.cn/CN/10.16829/j.slxb.150487
Gallery of images of Leopard Cat from Beijing
With thanks to Peking University and the Chinese Felid Conservation Alliance (CFCA) for permission to use these images.